Thursday, November 4, 2010

David Grossman on Charlie Rose

David Grossman and son, Uri, who was one of the last killed in the
Lebanon War before a ceasefire was declared. 
A bit from the transcript of the interview that took place in October upon the American release of his book, To the End of the Land, but you should watch the whole thing. Say what you will about his politics, but if only the other side had his equivalent soul searching ruach there would be someone to talk to:

CHARLIE ROSE:  You know, I’m fascinated by the release of the
documents from the Israeli government about the ‘73 war and how close it
was.  You’re part of that conversation, you hear that conversation.  It’s a
big topic in Israel.  What is the -- it says how close it is always for
Israel -- in this case they were surprised by a war and also by the
tenacity of the Arabs. 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  Yes.  This existential fear prevails all the time in
Israel.  I know that when you look at Israel from the outside, from what
you see on the TV screen, you see a kind of military fist, iron fist.  But
we see the palm of the hand and the fragility of Israel

            And, you know, in the book which is called "To the End of the Land" it
has this double meaning as well, yes. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  What does it mean, "To the End of the Land"? 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  First it means, Ora asks the Palestinian driver to
take her to the place where Israel ends.  But also it echoes this option
that terrifies us all the time, that there might be an end to this country,
which really freaks me out to think that after 62 years of independence,
sovereignty, having enormous strong army.  Yet our existence is not
guaranteed, is not solid. 

            And at a certain moment when Ora and Avram, they spend on the top of
the mountain and they look around at the wonderful view of Galilee, and she
tells him "Isn’t it always like that with Israel, that every encounter with
it is also bidding farewell to it?" This double-ness exists all the time. 

            You know, if you read in an American paper that America plans its road
plan for the years 2030, it sounds normal, yes, reasonable.  No sane
Israeli will make plans for such a long time in advance.  And I’ll tell
you, when I think of Israel 20 or 30 years from now I feel a twinge in my
heart as if I violated a taboo by allowing myself too much portion, a too
huge portion of future. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  Too optimistic in your assumption that it will be

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  Yes.  And this must be corrected.  This must be
changed.  It’s impossible that we shall continue to live in this

            And I believe that only peace will allow us to enjoy this sequence of
generation and having a solid feeling of future and also something that is
maybe hard to understand, but I will call it solidity of existence, of the
people who is rooted in its own land, who has fixed borders between him and
his neighbors until now 62 years Israel does not have fixed borders.  Our
borders all the time are receding, expanding. 

            It’s like someone who lives in a room that the walls are moving all
the time or the ground is shaking under his feet all the time.  This cannot
go on like that forever.  Only peace we’ll allow us in Israel to have a
feeling of home, of real home, you know? 

            Israel was created so it will be the homeland of the Jewish people,
the Jewish people who never really felt at home in the world.  This is our
tragedy.  And we have Israel, and still it is not the home that we need and
we deserve and we yearn to.  Only peace will allow us to have home and
future and this solidity of existence. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  Can you afford to think about what Israel would be like
if there was peace? 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  I think a lot about it, and I think that even
thinking about it is obligatory, because most Israelis and Palestinians,
they so deeply misbelieve in the option of peace that they despair of this
possibility at all.  And I think it’s so necessary. 

            CHARLIE ROSE:  You have to believe in it? 

            DAVID GROSSMAN:  To believe in it, to insist on believing in that, to
make a kind of a massage to the reluctant consciousness, the terrified
consciousness.  So we shall know what is the alternative and remember that
there is an alternative, that there’s not any divine decree of orders to
live by the sword all our life. 


  1. I read the whole book and loved it, though I didn't think that the characters represented the feeling of all Jews in Israel.

    I think that Israel will survive, but in what kind of shape no one knows.

    In any case, the Israeli reality is the Jewish reality. Some Jews are always asking if the Jewish people will survive. I am not that pessimistic.

    Grossman as a man of the left likes to bring up worse case scenarios as if they were real in order to scare people into following a certain prescribed plan of action.

    Finally, I agree that Israel needs peace it needs to leave the West Bank, but not on any terms.

    The most dangerous thing Israel can do is cut and run and hope that the other side will not attack it again once it has ceded all the territories. Israel will only survive it is determined to survive. This is where I part company with Grossman his novel or rather its main character tells Israel that it has no will to survive. This is dangerous.

    Jews as a people will not survive without a strong autonomous center. Israel protects all of us. It is up to us to fight for Israel’s survival.

  2. I basically agree with you but what I love about Grossman is his ability to humanize the political and reclaim the love of Israel from those who don't get it.


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